cooper test

Cooper test: what it is, how to do it and what data does it give us

Cooper test: what it is, how to do it and what data does it give us

Probably more than one is familiar with the famous Cooper Test , and some of you may remember it with fear and as a nightmare associated with Physical Education classes (at least, that’s the case with me).

To give you a little memory, the Cooper Test is a physical test that consists of enduring up to 12 minutes running , either on the running track, around a soccer field (that’s how it was in my classes) or anywhere in the one that we can run at high intensity without danger and without other factors interfering. The preparation and performance of the test is extremely simple and anyone can do it , although the ideal would be to have some previous training so as not to die in the attempt . 

Today we will review in a general way what the Cooper Test is and how it works, how this test originated and what would be the normal results or assessment of the Cooper Test according to age, as well as a review of what other tests or physical tests exist, and how to calculate VO2 max from the Cooper test.

What is the Cooper Test and what does it measure?

As we have already mentioned, for the Cooper Test we only need comfortable sportswear , a free area to run (a college or high school football field is the most typical, but it can also be a park or any free area), a watch that it measures 12 minutes and some way to measure the route .

Formerly we needed to know what approximate distance measured total back to one of these areas, but nowadays with the GPS watches is much easier to do this kind of test : can quickly look what time and distance we, or directly notify us having completed the 12 minutes, without more. Technology to the rescue. But come on, if you do not have a smart watch it is not the end of the world, it is enough that you can control time and distance (even if necessary it can be measured afterwards in Google Maps knowing where you started and where you finished).

cooper test

With only 12 minutes, the Cooper Test is able to give us an approximation of our aerobic capacity (in addition to being able to measure our evolution by carrying out successive tests over time), estimate our VO2 max (as we will explain below) and can also help us to go adapting our training .

The origin of the Cooper Test

We owe the origin of the Cooper Test to Kenneth H. Cooper , who presented it for the first time in 1968 in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, for friends)

Kenneth H. Cooper


Cooper was a colonel and a medic at the time, and it occurred to him that it would be a good idea to create a test as simple as possible to evaluate his soldiers cheaply . And in fact, he did it, since he only needed a flat area to run and 12 minutes of time. Likewise, he devised tables with the approximate values ​​or scales that would correlate with 90% of VO2 max (one of the most used indicators to measure aerobic capacity today).

His test was not only very successful because it could be applied to anyone and in a massive way , but even today it is still used in schools and in other areas, such as access tests to certain jobs such as security agents, firefighters, policemen ext…

The results or scales of the Cooper Test

As we can see in the tables created by Cooper under these lines, there are different values according to age and sex . To give an example, in my case, currently 27 years old, I should look at the area of ​​”less than 30 years”, and be able to complete between 2.4 and 2.8 kilometers so that in the Cooper test I obtained a “good” assessment .

Cooper test chart for men

If it were the case of being able to complete 3 km (specifically more than 2.8 kilometers) in the 12 minutes that the test gives us, the rating would be “excellent”.

In the case of women , my age, a “good” assessment would be equivalent to completing between 2.2 and 2.7 km. On the other hand, to reach “excellent”, a woman would have to complete more than 2.7 kilometers. These are the values ​​of the Cooper Test in women according to their age:

Table of the Cooper Test for women

Cooper test and VO2Max: their relationship

Although, as we discussed in his day, the most direct, objective and realistic way to calculate the VO2 max (the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can process during exercise) of an individual is to perform a spirometry and a stress test , The Cooper Test is usually one of the most used indirect tests to calculate this parameter in athletes (and it is much cheaper).

Although more nonspecific, the Cooper Test can not only be a good way to approximate VO2Max, but it can also help us to calculate our progression in training .

Once we finish the Cooper test, we will apply the following formula:

  • VO2 Max = 22,351 x Distance traveled (in kilometers) – 11,288

Again, it should be remembered that this is only an indirect estimate, and should not be taken as a specific and immovable data, we once again recall that the most accurate way to calculate V02 Max is through a specific stress test.

cooper test

‘Other’ Cooper test and physical tests

In case you don’t like the Cooper Test, or it seems too simple, there are other alternative performance tests to calculate VO2 max that are widely used today. The most used are the Rockport Test and the Course Navette (below you have a guide on this test),  as well as other famous tests within the world of athletics such as the Gavela Test to calculate the Marathon pace through a demanding 2 × training 6000 meters. 

Rockport test

This test is even simpler than the Cooper Test, as it was designed for those individuals who could not endure 12 minutes of continuous running. In this case it is not necessary to run, but simply to walk quickly, until completing one mile (1,609 meters in the international system).

Various parameters will be taken into account during the test, such as heart rate and total time, as well as the individual’s body weight and gender.

Once we have all the variables, the formula will be the following:

  • VO2 Max = 132.6 – (0.17 x CP) – (0.39 x Age) + (6.31 x S) – (3.27 x T) – (0.156 x HR)

PC: Body weight.
S: Sex (0: women, 1: men).
T: Time in minutes.
HR: Heart rate.

Course Navette Test

Finally, we have the Course Navette test , a test where the individual must move from one point to another located 20 meters away, making a change of pace marked by an audio recording (or at the pace of the Physical Education teacher, already that this test is also typical in school age).

The signal will accelerate progressively, so the objective is for the individual to carry out the test until they can not complete the distance in the marked time.

When the last complete series is carried out, the speed used in it will be measured and the following formula will be applied:

  • VO2 Max = 5.857 x Speed ​​(Km / h) – 19.45

As we can see, there are tests for all tastes , and all of them are indirect ways of measuring VO2 max. The most popular is the Cooper Test, but it is not the only physical test that exists. And you, have you done any of these tests?

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